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Sharp Eyes, the Silver Fox
SHARP EYES GETS HOME
“HOW good it is to be free!” thought Sharp Eyes, the silver fox, as he bounded out of the broken cage and ran quickly to hide under some bushes that grew near the place in the zoological park where Chunky, the happy hippo, lived. “How good it is to be free! Good-bye, Chunky!” he called softly to his friend, from where he was hidden under the bush. “Good-bye! I wish you were coming with me.”
“No, thank you,” said the hippo. “I am better off in the park. I need to be warm, for I come from Jungle Land. As for you, with your warm coat of silver fur, you do not mind winter and snow. Good-bye and good luck to you!”
Then the hippo went to take a swim in the pool of his cage, and Sharp Eyes, remembering the hiding tricks his father and mother had taught him when he lived in the woods, made ready to get as far away as he could.
The silver fox kept very quiet under the bush, waiting to see what would happen. Soon, he knew, the animal keepers would find out he was gone, and they would hunt for him. Sharp Eyes did not want them to find him.
“I must creep away as carefully as if I was hunting a chicken at the farm near the North Woods where I used to live,” said Sharp Eyes to himself. “But no more chickens for me, unless I can be sure there is no trap near by! I must be very careful!”
Carefully and slyly he looked around. He saw no one, and he thought it would be a good thing to run a little farther away from the park. He was too close to his broken cage.
Trailing his big, bushy tail along behind him, Sharp Eyes crept out from under the bush and ran across the path. A little distance farther on were some trees, and the silver fox hoped they would prove to be a wood in which he might hide.
But just as he was going in among these trees (which were not a wood, but only a part of the park) one of the keepers saw him.
“Oh, the silver fox is out of his cage!” cried this man. “We must get the silver fox!”
He ran toward Sharp Eyes, and so did some other men who heard the cry. If they had had some dogs to help them they might have caught the fox. But Sharp Eyes could run faster than the fastest man, and he was in among the farthest trees before the keepers had reached the first ones.
“Now I must hide,” said Sharp Eyes to himself. “If I can find a hollow log I’ll crawl in that.”
But the woods of the park were not like those of the north, where the fox had lived. There were no fallen trees or hollow logs.
Sharp Eyes heard the men running after him and shouting. They were getting nearer and nearer. He must find some place to hide. He looked all about him, and, at last, saw a little hollow place, filled with dried leaves, beneath the roots of a tree.
Quickly scraping the ground away with his fore paws, the silver fox made the hole a little larger. Then he crawled down into it, and managed to scatter some leaves about on top of the hole, so that it did not show very plainly.
Sharp Eyes was hidden in this hole when the men from the park rushed into the patch of woods.
“Do you see that fox?” asked one man.
“No, he must have run right on,” answered another.
Even while they said this the men stood near the hole in which Sharp Eyes was hidden. But they could not see him on account of the leaves he had brushed over himself. Dogs could have smelled the fox, but the noses of the men were not keen enough for this. Nor were they hunters or trappers, who might have seen the marks left by Sharp Eyes’ feet in the soft dirt.
So the animal keepers passed right on, leaving the silver fox in the hole. And then his heart stopped beating so fast, for he felt that he was safe, at least for a time, and might, at last, get far, far away.
“I’ll wait a bit, until the men get out of the woods,” thought the silver fox. “Then I’ll run as far as I can. But I guess I’ll wait until after dark. Then they can’t see me so plainly.”
Sharp Eyes was not hungry, for he had been well fed in the zoo. But he was thirsty, and he dared not go out for a drink. How he wished he could lap up some water from the pool in which Chunky, the happy hippo, swam. But that could not be done.
So Sharp Eyes remained hidden under the roots of the tree. The animal keepers hunted all over the woods, but could not find the silver fox. They came back to his broken cage, and the head keeper said:
“Well, it is too bad that silver fox got away, for he was a beautiful animal, and the boys and the girls, and their fathers and mothers, liked to look at him. But maybe he will be happier if he gets back to his own woods. I wonder how he could break out of his cage?”
The man did not know the trick Chunky had played, and you may be sure the happy hippo did not tell. He missed Sharp Eyes, Chunky did, but there were other animals in the zoo for the hippo to talk to.
“Though I liked to talk to that fox about Turn Turn and our other friends,” said Chunky to himself. “However, maybe Sharp Eyes is better off out of his cage. I hope so.”
The silver fox waited until night before coming out of his hiding place. Even then he looked around very carefully to make sure there was no danger. Foxes can see in the dark almost as well as cats, and our friend had eyes that were brighter and better than those of most foxes.
“I guess no one is around now to catch me,” thought the silver fox to himself, as he came out of the hole. “I don’t smell any dogs to chase me. Oh, how good it is to be free, and not shut up in a cage! Now I am going back to the North Woods — to my father and mother, and to Twinkle and Winkle!”
Sharp Eyes did not know how far it was to the North Woods where he used to live. Perhaps it was just as well he did not, or he might never have tried to go there. As it was, he set off in the dark.
No one visited the zoo after dark, and even the watchmen and animal keepers went to bed. So did the animals, except maybe the elephants, and they sleep standing up. Thus no one saw Sharp Eyes as he ran through the park in the darkness of the night. From tree to bush and from bush to tree he ran until he came to a stone wall. This was one end of the park, and, to get out, the fox had to jump over this wall.
But that was easy for him. Often had he jumped over high bushes, fallen trees in the woods, or fences around a farm, when he wanted to get a fat chicken.
So, with a bound and a leap, Sharp Eyes went over the wall, and, to his surprise, he found himself in a queer place. It was a very light place and noisy. Big yellow things, like railroad cars were running up and down. They were the trolleys, though the fox did not know that. Then too, he saw black things, like big bugs, making no noise with their wheels, but puffing white smoke out of the back, also running up and down, in and out among the yellow things. These were automobiles.
And Sharp Eyes also saw many people in the street, for it was into a city street he had leaped after jumping over the park wall.
For a few seconds Sharp Eyes stood very still, after landing in the street. He crouched back against the stone wall, and then he heard a sudden shout.
“Oh, look what a beautiful silver dog!” cried a lady. Of course Sharp Eyes did not know just what she said, but that was it.
“A dog? That isn’t a dog!” said a man with the lady. “That’s a silver fox, and it must have gotten away from the zoo. I wonder if it’s tame enough for me to catch.”
“Oh, don’t! He might bite you!” said the lady. But the man ran toward the fox. However, Sharp Eyes did not wait for the man to come very close. With a little bark, the silver fox bounded to one side and ran along the street.
By this time several other men and boys had seen him, and they ran after him, some thinking he was a dog. The heart of Sharp Eyes beat very fast, and he hardly knew what to do. At last he saw a dark place, which he thought was a cave in which he might hide — it was really underneath the high front steps of a house on the street — and the silver fox crawled back into the darkest corner.
He was delighted when the men and boys ran past his new hiding place, for that told him he had not been seen.
“I hope they don’t get me,” thought the silver fox.
And the men and boys did not. They knew nothing about hunting foxes, even in the streets of a big city and they soon gave up the chase. Sharp Eyes stayed under the steps in the darkness until the streets grew quiet. Late at night, or, rather, very early in the morning, the trolley cars and automobiles stopped running. The streets had no one in them. And then it was that the fox came quietly out and ran along. He did not know just where he was going. He wanted to get to the country and to the woods. He wanted to get back home.
On and on he ran, and if any one in the city saw him in those early hours of the morning, they must have thought him a stray dog, for they did not chase him.
The silver fox was tired and hungry. He managed to find a bit of meat in an ash box, and once he came to a fountain where horses were watered, and he got a drink. Then he felt better.
It would take another book, almost as large as this, to tell all the adventures of Sharp Eyes as he ran through the city and at last got to the country where there were some woods.
At times boys and men saw him and chased him, and, more than once, dogs ran after him, barking. But Sharp Eyes was a smart fox. He had the smartness of a wild animal and the cunning of a partly tamed one. So he knew how to hide and how to get away.
On and on he traveled. It was quite different from being carried in a cage by the hunter or riding in the railroad train. It was hard work. The feet of Sharp Eyes became sore, especially the one which had been hurt in the trap.
Often the silver fox was hungry and thirsty, but he kept on and on. He did not go near cities but kept to the country and the woods. Often he would take a chicken or a duck from a farm at night. He did not know it was wrong, for he had to live, and this was the only way he had of getting food.
On and on he went. Sometimes he had to wade across brooks, and more than once he swam rivers. All the while he was looking for his old home in the North Woods, not knowing how far away it was. When he met any animals who seemed kind — horses, dogs or cats — Sharp Eyes would ask them:
“Do you know where my hollow-log home is? Or do you know my father or mother, or my brother Twinkle or my sister Winkle?”
“No,” would be the answer. “We don’t know.”
“Then I must go on farther,” said Sharp Eyes.
By this time his silver coat was tattered and tangled. In it were burrs and briars. The feet of the silver fox were cut and sore. But still he kept on.
Once a hunter shot at him, hoping to get the silver fur, but the bullet whistled over Sharp Eyes’ back. Once a savage dog chased him, and he had to run very fast, turning many ways, and finally waded a long distance in a brook before the dog lost the scent and gave up.
“Oh dear!” thought Sharp Eyes. “I wonder if I shall ever get home again!”
He was very tired, but he would not give up. One evening, after a day of hard travel, the silver fox felt that he could go no farther. He saw a stream of water just ahead of him, and slowly he limped to it to get a drink.
As he was lapping up the cool drops he heard behind him a voice he seemed to know. It was animal talk, and some one said:
“Oh, Mother! Look! There is a strange fox!”
“Yes, so it is,” another voice answered. “Well, don’t bother him. He looks tired and weary. Let him drink, and, when he is rested, we can give him some of the chicken you and Twinkle caught to-day.”
“What’s that — Twinkle?” cried Sharp Eyes, stopping his drinking and turning quickly around. “Who is Twinkle?” he asked in fox talk.
“That is the name of my brother,” said the smaller of the two foxes, who were near a hole in the bank of the stream. “I am Winkle.”
“Then you must be my sister!” cried Sharp Eyes.
“Your sister!” exclaimed the other fox. “Why — why — ”
But suddenly the larger fox sprang forward. With eager eyes she looked at the silver animal.
“Sharp Eyes! Sharp Eyes!” she cried, “don’t you know me? I am your mother! Oh, how glad I am to have you back!” and she rubbed her cold nose against his and kissed him with her tongue.
“‘Sharp Eyes,’ she cried, ‘don’t you know me?’”
“Sharp Eyes! Who is talking of Sharp Eyes?” asked another fox, coming to the opening of the hole in the side of the stream-bank. “Sharp Eyes has been gone a long time.”
“But he is back now!” cried the mother fox. “See, here he is! He has grown to be a big fox, and his silver coat is all ragged and torn, but he is our Sharp Eyes just the same.”
The other big fox came down to the edge of the stream. He looked carefully at the silver fox. So did a smaller animal, and to him Sharp Eyes said:
“Don’t you know me, brother Twinkle?”
“Why, it is Sharp Eyes!” cried the other. “I can tell him by the scar on his foot where he was caught in the trap.”
“Yes, I am Sharp Eyes,” said the silver fox. “And, oh, how glad I am to get back home again! I am so glad to see you — Father and Mother — and you, Twinkle and Winkle! I thought I should never get to the North Woods again.”
“These are not the North Woods,” said the father fox. “Those woods are far, far away. We left them long ago — soon after you were missing. We came to these woods to live. How did you find us and where have you been?”
“I have been in many places,” answered the silver fox, “and I have had many adventures. I don’t know how I happened to find you. I guess it was just an accident, such as Chunky, the happy hippo, said he would make believe happened to my cage when he leaned against it and set me free. But at last I am home again!”
“Yes,” said his mother, “in our new home. Are you hungry, Sharp Eyes?”
“Am I hungry?” he cried. “Well, I should say I am!”
“I’ll bring you some of the chicken that Brother Twinkle and I caught to-day,” said Winkle. “We are good hunters now, Sharp Eyes.”
“Yes, indeed they are good hunters,” said Mr. Fox. “Well, Sharp Eyes, I guess you have had enough of adventures, haven’t you?”
“Indeed I have!” answered the silver fox, as he ate some chicken in the new cave-house. “I am never going away again.”
“Tell us your adventures,” said Twinkle, when his brother had rested in the cave.
“They were so many it will take me quite a while,” answered the silver fox. “I met many animal friends, and they had their adventures put into books. Maybe that will happen to me.”
And it did, and here’s the very book, as you can see for yourself. And now, as we have brought these adventures of Sharp Eyes to an end, we will say good-bye to him.